Its my Friday lay day blog. Every day now, the Euro news is dominated with the machinations regarding Greece. As it should be I suppose, given the scale of the tragedy in place. It might have escaped the attention of some but Eurostat released its latest labour force report yesterday (April 30, 2015) – Euro area unemployment rate at 11.3% – which told us that despite all this talk of a Eurozone recovery, the unemployment remains at 11.3 per cent in March 2015 (no change on February 2015) and only 0.4 per cent lower than a year ago (March 2014). The Greek unemployment rate remains at 25.7 per cent (as at January 2015) and more than 50 per cent of 15-24 year olds are unemployed. But the worst news I saw this week related to the results of a survey of Greek people about the current situation. It tells me that things are very desperate indeed.
Here is the latest graph from Eurostat for the unemployment rate from 2000 to March 2015. The sharp rise in 2008 was due to the GFC and the rising fiscal deficits that resulted started to stabilise the situation around 10 per cent and if the elites hadn’t invoked the destructive Stability and Growth Pact rules the decline that was emerging in 2010 and early 2011 would have continued.
But the imposition of the harsh austerity across the Eurozone resulted in unemployment rates skyrocketing. Totally unnecessary.
The Greek unemployment remains above 25 per cent and a host of other negative side effects have accompanied that malaise.
There is a lot of speculation about when the Greek government will run out of money, given it does not have currency-issuing capacity. If they don’t get further funds from the Troika then it has to come within the next few months.
Internally, Syriza is now finding it difficult maintaining payments to pensioners and public servants and is tapping into fairly unconventional cash sources within the broader public service for funds.
The Euro elites look as though they have headed off the upstarts (Syriza). As Stathis Kouvelakis (a member of the Syriza government) noted in his latest Jacobin article (April 24, 2015) – Greece: The Noose Tightens – that after “events in Greece have taken a dramatic turn, and insolvency is at the gates”:
There are only three options remaining for the Syriza government …
There will be “no gradual approach to reforms” as proposed by the new Greek government – austerity has to be hell bent.
The Troika is demanding:
a “comprehensive list of reforms” is required, which should include further deregulation of the labor market and cuts in pensions, two “red lines” that the Greeks would not see crossed.
Any plans by Syriza to “reduce some taxes and increase the minimum wage and pensions” are considered to be “moving backwards” and will not be permitted by the Troika.
The three options now remaining according to Stathis Kouvelakis are:
1. The Greek government to be allowed some space to halt the austerity and receive bailout support. Chances – negligible.
2. “The Greek government gives up” – which is the “avowed aim of the Europeans”. This option would violate the raison d’etre of Syriza and its political victory and “would amount to surrender and to political suicide for Syriza”. Chance – high.
3. “The Greek government defaults on the debt” which would mean “a decisive rupture and exiting the eurozone”. Chances – high.
Stathis Kouvelakis also hints that Syriza appears to be increasingly divided about the way it should lead the nation.
He also says that the:
… state of public opinion reflects this uncertainty. The enthusiasm and the combative spirit of the first three weeks have now given way to a mixed picture: the support for the government’s strategy is still high, but significantly below its level of the previous months
He notes the on-going “scaremongering on the theme of the ‘Grexit’ remains unchallenged at the level of broad public opinion”.
The conservatives (right-wingers) and the Euro elites continue to equate exit with an “apocalypse”. That has been a constant theme in all of this as Greece goes further into Depression.
Stathis Kouvelakis wants Syriza to hold “firm on the line of confrontation with the EU and prepare the popular movement and Greek society more broadly to embark on a radically different trajectory, both at the domestic and at the international level.”
He has been consistent in that view.
But a recent poll taken by the Greek polling firm Kappa Research illustrates the problem that those who wish to promote a Eurozone exit instead of the mind-boggling continuation of austerity face.
It was published in the Greek newspaper – To Vima – which is a centrist leaning paper with strong political credibility. It “is politically aligned with the centrist (reformist) wing of the Greek … party PASOK”, so it is little wonder it seeks to promote pro-Euro ideas.
The following graphic shows the results of that opinion poll.
The poll would suggest a certain degree of hopelessness in Greece.
The stunning result (for me) is that an increasing majority of Greeks support retreat and continuation of the current austerity if the Euro elites refuse to support Syriza’s request for some breathing space.
Support for retaining the Euro is increasing.
Those opinions are now the dominant view in Greece.
Even if Syriza goes back to the polls after failing to negotiate a reasonable deal with the Troika it is difficult to see those views changing.
How does Syriza maintain any political meaning in that situation. Yes, they won the election in January. But their mandate is at odds with the political reality.
What did the Greek people think they were getting when they elected Syriza? It is clear that there is a massive dislocation in the public’s understanding of the consequences of exit and the reality of those consequences.
The scaremongering has worked a treat.
The population now prefer almost permanent stagnation with no circuit breakers to giving up the euro. I find that amazing but then I have consistently argued that a Greek exit would be beneficial after the initial costly ructions. I also have no savings at stake (written to save some comments to that effect!).
In the Bloomberg Business article (April 27, 2015) – Greece’s Day of Reckoning Inches Closer as Payments Loom – we learn that:
… 71.9 percent of those surveyed said a deal with creditors would be best for the country, while 23.2 percent said they prefer a clash. An Alco survey in Proto Thema newspaper showed that half of respondents want a compromise even if creditors reject Greek government demands, while 36 percent said the government should opt for a “rupture.”
If Syriza call a new election it will probably win given the current polls. But it would be a victory for austerity, which is no victory at all.
And the Greek Finance Minister would ride off on his motorbike without achieving much at all.
International Workers’ Day
Today is – International Workers’ Day – sometimes called May Day, although that confuses the celebration with the European Spring Holiday to recognise the coming of Summer.
The date for the International Workers’ Day commemorated the infamous Chicago – Haymarket Affair – (May 4, 1886), which resulted in several innocent workers being hanged after a bomb exploded at a protest in pursuit of the 8-hour day. Police violence (they killed four union protesters the day before) prompted one person to throw the bomb at the cops.
At the 1889 Paris meeting of the workers’ organisation, the – Second International – it was agreed to declare May 1 as International Workers’ Day and set in place the campaign to secure an 8-hour working day.
As an aside, the Second International marked the beginning of what we might call ‘authoritarian socialism’ given the organisers refused to allow the Anarchists (who represented a social liberal or anti-authoritarian form of socialist endeavour) to attend. Events in the C20 might have been very different if that piece of oppression had not occurred.
To celebrate we can finish the week singing.
Music was added in 1888 by the Belgian socialist – Pierre De Geyter. It was composed on his harmonium.
This version is the Billy Bragg revision that was on his 1990 album of the same name.
The second song comes thanks to a regular reader Punchy, up there on the Gold Coast. It is from an English folk protest, busking band – Phat Bollard – who seem to tour around English cities busking and protesting.
An old tradition with a contemporary theme.
The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.